Less than three weeks
away from the scheduled execution of Johnny Robinson, three men
testified that the former prosecutor of his case is racist.
Robinson, 51, was sentenced to death for the 1985 rape and murder
of Beverly St. George. He and then-16-year-old Clinton Fields found
St. George on the side of Interstate 95 and took her to a cemetery.
They had sex with her, and Robinson shot her twice in the head,
according to court records.
He is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 in
An evidentiary hearing began Friday in the St. Johns County
Courthouse, in which attorneys from the Capital Collateral Regional
Counsels are pushing for a stay of execution and a new trial. On
Saturday, three black men said former prosecutor Steve Alexander has
a reputation as a racist in the St. Augustine community.
Assistant Capital Collateral attorneys Peter Cannon and Daphney
Gaylord are arguing in part that racial bias in 1985 and 1986
contributed to Robinson receiving the death penalty and violated his
Constitutional rights. Robinson is black.
In interviews with The St. Augustine Record Friday and Saturday,
Alexander denied being a racist. He said the death penalty was made
for people like Robinson, who had rape convictions prior to the rape
and murder of St. George.
He brushed aside the arguments of the defense as sensational
claims made to try to save Robinson from the death penalty.
"It's their job to throw mud on the wall and see if any of it can
stick," Alexander said.
Testimony of racism
The defense witnesses gave proffers, statements that won't
necessarily be considered in the ruling. They proffered testimony
because Circuit Judge Robert Mathis ruled the motion involving
Alexander's alleged racism was procedurally barred, meaning it was
already settled in a different court.
Cannon and Gaylord said they have information that makes the
racism argument new.
Assistant attorneys general Barbara Davis and Kenneth Nunnelley
and Assistant State Attorney Rosemary Calhoun -- representing the
state -- don't want it accepted.
The first witness Saturday was attorney Michael Bryant, a former
prosecutor for Duval and St. Johns counties, now in private
practice. He answered brief questions about himself and Alexander.
"Not only have people made comments to me as to his truthfulness,
people have also made comments to me such that I understood them to
say he was a racist," Bryant said.
He was off the stand in minutes.
Saturday night, Alexander told The Record he hired Bryant while
he was State Attorney in the 1990s. Bryant was the first black
assistant state attorney in St. Johns County, Alexander said. He
said he didn't know why Bryant would consider him racist.
"I'm the one who gave him the opportunity to come to St. Johns
County and work and live," Alexander said.
The next man to speak about Alexander was former St. Johns County
Commissioner Moses Floyd. Alexander and Floyd have interacted
previously. Alexander represented Floyd in lawsuits, but he also
prosecuted Floyd in criminal cases.
In the first, in the mid-1980s, Floyd was accused of filing a
false travel voucher while he was a football coach at Nease High
School. The case was dismissed, and no money was ever found to be
missing, Floyd told The Record.
In the next case, in 1995, Floyd was indicted on a charge of
soliciting a bribe while he served on the board of county
commissioners. Alexander prosecuted, but Floyd was found not guilty.
According to Floyd, his opinion of Alexander is based on personal
experience and comments he heard from constituents during his time
as a commissioner.
"Steve Alexander is known as a Judas. He is superior, compared to
David Duke, as a racist. He has disgraced the St. Johns County
community, the judicial system, all humanity and the public trust,
because he used his public office as a prosecutor -- without the
Klansman hood and torch -- to exercise racism, terror, malicious
prosecution, unethical practice, and manufacturing crimes on others
for self-promotion while destroying other human beings, individually
and families, unlike himself and his own kind," Floyd testified.
He was the county's first black commission chairman. In a
political advertisement in The Record in 1990, there's a picture of
Alexander and Floyd shaking hands. It said the prosecutor supported
Floyd's commission run.
The next to testify was John Singleton, a retiree who knows Floyd
and said he was familiar with Alexander's reputation.
When asked about it, he replied: "I don't know how to really say
that. It's bad." He said "yes" when asked by Cannon if Alexander has
a reputation as a racist.
After a death penalty conviction in 1986, the Robinson case was
remanded for resentencing by the Florida Supreme Court in 1988. The
court ruled that Alexander made an "impermissible appeal to bias and
prejudice" by insinuating that Robinson had a habit of preying on
Robinson has multiple rape convictions.
Alexander was in charge of the re-sentencing, and Robinson
received the death penalty again in 1989. The death penalty in that
case was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Since then, the case has progressed through federal District
Court, federal Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, and back to
In 1993, attorneys for Robinson filed a motion to vacate the
judgment, but it was denied in 1995.
Sole witness retarded
On Saturday, other testimony came from Robert Porter, chief of
staff of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
He testified that Fields had described the shooting to him in
1985, when he was captain of investigations and supervisor of the
case. (After testifying, he left court to go to his retirement
He agreed when asked if Fields told him Robinson called St.
George a bad name preceding a push, a slap, and a gun going off.
The defense was trying to support Robinson's statements that what
happened to St. George in the cemetery was accidental. Robinson has
said St. George joined him and Fields after he stopped by her
broken-down car to help her. The three went to a cemetery, where
they had consensual sex on the roof of his car, Robinson said. But
he called St. George a bad name, and she slapped him. He pushed her
away with his gun, and it accidentally went off, he said.
Doubting that people would believe a black man would accidentally
shoot a white woman, he shot her again, he said.
Fields has made statements that support Robinson's version. But
he also testified against Robinson and supported the state's version
of kidnapping, rape and murder.
Cannon and Gaylord argue that Fields, with an IQ of 50, is
mentally retarded, and was manipulated by authorities. They argue
that Fields told authorities what they wanted to hear so he could
get a deal from Alexander, a deal Alexander reneged on.
Fields was convicted of the same charges as Robinson and
sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years.
Cannon and Gaylord said they have an affidavit of Fields
recanting his old statement against Robinson. But Mathis won't
accept the affidavit because the state vowed to prosecute Fields for
perjury if he recants. Fields recanted for the defense in prison,
without an attorney present. That's something he is not competent to
do, Mathis ruled.
On Friday, Fields pleaded his Fifth Amendment right to avoid
self-incrimination. But he was clearly confused while on the stand.
An attorney hired for him at the last minute, Wayne Henderson, said
Fields seems to agree to anything.
When the supposed deal fell through in 1986, Fields was
represented by Tom Cushman -- who is Henderson's law partner today,
Fields was the state's only witness of the crime. But Alexander
said there was enough information to push for the death penalty with
or without his testimony against Robinson. Cannon and Gaylord argue
The case resumes on Monday. One expert witness will explain a
study that says the 7th Judicial Circuit has racial bias in its